THE plight of a cash-strapped couple struggling to pay off a huge £70,000 loan has been raised in Parliament.

Ministers were told that David and Pauline Spencer, of Stoneleigh Drive, Stoneclough, were victims of a mortgage system which is crippling thousands of people living on the bread-line in Britain.

Bolton South East MP Brian Iddon decided to make the issue public after representing the couple for four years.

He told the House of Commons: "I have come up against a brick wall. I demand an inquiry into the actions of these companies with the hope that other people will be saved from some despair."

His concerns centred on the desperate struggle of Mr and Mrs Spencer to pay off a £10,000 loan which they took out nine years ago with American company, Ocwen Asset Investment UK LLC.

The couple are still paying £85 per month and will have paid back £70,000 by 2007.

Dr Iddon said in the Commons it was "astonishing and immoral."

The company, managed by igroup plc are facing a catalogue of complaints across the country, mainly levelled by the Citizen's Advice Bureau, concerning mortgage allegations.

The local couple have been through numerous court cases after igroup threatened to repossess their home.

Mrs Spencer explained: "We've had the interest rate reduced down to 20 per cent APR but this is still too high. "They say that they will settle the loan if we pay £20,000. But we've already paid back £45,000. We're not paying any more than £10,000.

"This loan has been horrendous. Looking back we were very vulnerable people and we believe we were given the wrong advice."

Dr Iddon claims a major clampdown should be made on the way brokers approach people.

Dr Iddon said: "I've heard of brokers going into psychiatric hospitals getting people to sign loans. It's scandalous."

The Spencers decided to take out a loan in 1992 to replace windows at their home. It should have been for just £5,000 but the broker talked them into a £10,000 loan.

They say they were also pressured into paying a massive £3,500 for job loss cover -- which only lasted five years.

Pauline explained: "My husband lost his job and when we tried to contact the loan insurance firm it didn't exist.

"We feel we have been let down along the line. Even solicitors have taken money from us, money we cannot afford."

Dr Iddon is now campaigning to stop the Spencers and thousands of other people from paying "extortionately" high interest rates.

Mrs Spencer added: "We were originally told it was a 13.5 APR but it turned out to be 31.5 pc APR.

"This whole experience has been horrendous. We have had to scrape this money together every month. We have never been in arrears. But we have also had to do without. At a time when we should be looking forward to retirement, we are both working full-time to keep a roof over our heads."

In 1997, the Office of Fair Trading abolished high interest rates for loans taken after 1995.

But Dr Iddon claims thousands of families are still struggling to pay off impossible debts after taking out loans before this time.

Mrs Spencer added: "People should come forward and we should act together.

"There is no crime in being in debt. But there is that stigma that surrounds it. It has to be broken down.

"I'm delighted that Dr Iddon raised our story in Parliament. There needs to be more awareness."

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs, Dr Kim Howells, told parliament that the Office of Fair Trading planned to review their guidelines this year introducing extra powers to protect vulnerable people from "exploitive lending".

Dr Howells revealed that new mortgage regulations will come into force in August 2002 but admitted that it was very difficult for courts to be given "cast iron evidence" to prove that contracts had been distorted.